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The Social Contract for Housing, Ecuador

Silvana Ruiz Pozo, Vanessa Pinto


Ecuador, a country of conflicts, is also the country of the “minga.” (1) As the Social Contract for Housing Collective, we have confidence in the potential for dialogue, compromise and working together to solve the housing problem in our country.

The Housing Problem in Ecuador

In Ecuador, one out of three households live in precarious conditions and every year there are approximately 64,000 new households throughout the country. More than 25,000 of these households live below the poverty line, with a total family income below the cost of basic market products (Ruiz, 2008). After several decades of “withdrawal” by the state in production and financing for low-income housing, the Ecuadorian government implemented a Housing Incentives System in 1998 through an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank which was implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MIDUVI). This program included a nonreimbursable subsidy for new urban housing, refurbishment of urban housing and refurbishment of rural housing, worth US$1,800, US$750 and US$500, respectively.

El Contrato Social por la Vivienda (The Social Contract for Housing, or CSV) was created in July, 2005, as a reaction to the elimination of grants to fund housing bonds for the 2006 budget, which would have meant the destruction of the housing subsidy system.

In order to fulfill a campaign promise, the government, led by economist Rafael Correa, has strengthened the Housing Incentives System, implementing a tiered bond ranging from US$2,400 to US$5,000 for new urban housing, US$5,000 for marginal urban housing and rural housing, US$1,500 for housing improvements and US$200 in bonds for titles to be used to formalize the transfer of property ownership to low-income families.

According to official statistics from MIDUVI, just over 147,000 bonds were given out in 2007 and 2008: 25,748 bonds for new housing in urban areas; 15,854 bonds for housing improvements; 9,772 bonds for marginal urban housing; 2,634 vouchers for improvements to marginal urban housing; 85,448 bonds for rural housing and 7,736 bonds for improvements to rural housing. There are no official statistics on the number of bonds for titles that were given out (Ruiz, 2009). In spite of the resources allocated to Ecuadorian families to facilitate their access to housing through the basic Savings, Bonds and Credit formula, there were still problems with access to these benefits. More importantly, the Housing Incentives System did not constitute a housing policy in its entirety and was simply an element of one. It is not possible to address the housing and habitat problem solely by building housing while neglecting related issues and roles that should be assumed by other actors involved, such as:

• local governments and other public institutions in the provision of developed urban land; defining and updating regulatory frameworks, risk management mechanisms and incentives that promote logical use of vacant land; protection of important environmental areas; social redistribution of surplus value; the supply of social housing; and community organization;

• competent regional governments and public bodies involved in rural development, which enable the design and implementation of comprehensive responses to rural development and habitat issues as well as sustainable urban development;

• the financial sector in the expansion and improvement of credit supply for housing, particularly for middle- and low-income groups;

• the construction industry using housing products of a good construction and aesthetic quality for low-income families under the principle of social responsibility;

• academic sectors and research centres that contribute to the development of alternative technologies based on the sustainable use of local resources and that orient professional education towards social service;

• social organisations and other social actors such as NGOs, academic centres and professional groups that work on the definition, implementation, evaluation and lobbying of housing policies;

• institutions interacting among the different levels (national, local and community) which will need to create citizen and neighborhood councils to ensure the right to housing, the city and habitat.

Contrato Social por la Vivienda (The Social Contract for Housing, or CSV)

Contrato Social por la Vivienda (The Social Contract for Housing or CSV) is comprised of social organisations and institutions, NGOs, companies, academic organizations, as well as professional individuals and groups, whose work is linked to social housing and to the right to the city and habitat. The CSV operates as a forum for independent discussion, with branches in the cities of Quito, Guayaquil and Pujilí. It proposes to contribute to the full exercise of the right to housing, the city and habitat, ensuring the necessary conditions are met so that all Ecuadorians have access to these rights.

It acts as a meeting space for common desires and concerted actions but it is not a legal entity and does not have a specific funding source. Regardless, the CSV has been developing a campaign since August, 2005, consisting of lobbying and making ongoing demands of the authorities, raising awareness in the media and providing information and training for the leaders and members of the collective.The more than 1602 activities organized by the CSV have gradually increased its social recognition and contributed towards a strengthened common agenda. Other institutions and organisations have been added to the six that initially undertook this initiative. Currently, the CSV is made up of 27 institutions and organisations. Starting with demands in defense of the subsidy system, a platform has been created that seeks to consolidate social participation, dialogue and agreements between the many different actors in order to develop a sustainable and equitable housing policy, with a corresponding legal framework.

The CSV is based on the premise that the sustainability of proposals, solutions and policies depends on collective efforts and agreements which are made on the basis of progressive consensus. For this reason, CSV promotes the participation of various actors in the reflection, action and attention to aspects related to the right to housing, the city and habitat.

The CSV agenda is structured around three interrelated action strategies:

  • The constitutionalization of the universal right to housing, the city and habitat

As a first strategy, the national constituent assembly represented a historic opportunity to strengthen and restore individual and social rights as well as the state’s policies in relation to housing, the city and habitat. Among the advocacy activities carried out by the CSV during the constituent process, the “Citizens’ Demand for the Right to Housing, the City and Habitat” was publicly announced for the first time to the elected assembly members in Quito on November 8, 2007, just a few days before the assembly was inaugurated.

The Citizens’ Demand — the result of a six-month discussion process — involved the participation of more than 300 delegates from social organisations, private institutions, NGOs and academics, highlighting the cooperation between different actors in building an inclusive and sustainable habitat.

On February 8 and 9, 2008, representatives of CSV member organisations and institutions supported the protest in Montecristi — home of the assembly headquarters — promoted by the Urban Forum. Delegates of the mobilized grassroots organisations and members of CSV were welcomed by assembly members at Tables 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7, where they discussed the importance of the specific demands put forward by the CSV and reiterated civil society’s commitment to the participatory construction of a new constitution. The majority of the proposals in the Citizens’ Demand were included in a draft constitution which was approved by the Ecuadorian people in a vote on September 28, 2009.

  • The implementation and participatory design of public policies on housing and human settlements that ensure conditions for the exercise of universal rights to housing, the city and habitat

In the second strategy, the CSV seeks to influence the development and implementation of a state policy together with the participation of organized social groups, the private sector and local governments, in order to come up with institutional responses which are socially effective, responsible and equitable.

These proposals aim to build a state policy that addresses families’ immediate problems and urgent demands, without losing sight of proposals for improving housing conditions and the quality of life in the medium and long term. Toward this end, the CSV organized spaces to facilitate public dialogue and workshops to discuss and analyze problems related to housing, the city and habitat, and also prepared proposals for policy guidelines.

Along these lines, the CSV presented its proposals in July and August of 2009 as part of the update to the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo (National Development Plan or PND) for 2009-2013, emphasizing the necessity of defining a coherent housing policy with rights recognized in the new constitution.

  • The enactment of a housing and human settlements law which includes institutional and financial support

Finally, the third strategy emphasizes the establishment of a general housing and human settlements law to ensure the right to housing, the city and habitat, and to ensure the legal, institutional and financial means for its implementation. Currently, as the Ministry for Urban Development and Housing prepares its own bill, the CSV has put forward the following points:

• The need to codify existing norms regarding housing and habitat.

• In accordance with the constitution, the law should address not only the issue of housing but also the issues of city and habitat.

• Within the law, define the leader of the sector and the necessary complementary skills between the central government and the autonomous decentralized governments.

• Implement a monitoring and evaluation system for policies and programs related to housing, the city and habitat based on citizen participation and supervision. Ensure accordance with the Ley de Participacion Ciudadana (Law of Civil Participation).

• Within the law, establish a definition of housing for social interests with the purpose of applying exemptions and incentives. These exemptions and incentives already exist in current legislation, but they need to be expanded. The definition would be based on a concept of adequate housing including accessibility, services, tenure security, good quality of housing, surroundings, and other aspects.

• Regulate and promote the use of alternative technologies through their inclusion in the building code. Implement incentives for research and restructuring of curricula in architecture and engineering schools, opening up possibilities for the use and application of alternative technologies.

• Through the law, encourage the production and use of local materials for construction as well as the intensive use of labour.

• Define guidelines for the resettlement of low-income groups living in high risk zones and for adequate urban planning to avoid creating such settlements.

• Create a unified system with respect to: regulations, national and local deficits, housing programs (the housing incentives system and other data), a database of key actors (housing organisations, technical entities, international financial institutions, NGOs).

• Link the principles of the law with other laws and related regulations to land use planning, the environment, energy efficiency, and rural-urban equality, among others.

El Contrato Social por la Vivienda member organisations and institutions, October 2009

Social organisations:

Asociación de Mujeres Luchando por la Vida (Association of Women Struggling for Life)

Asociación de Vivienda Alianza de Mujeres (Women’s Association of Housing Alliance)

Asociación Vida Vivienda (Life Housing Association)

Paseos de Pichincha Housing Association

Confederación Nacional de Barrios del Ecuador (National Neighborhood Confederation)

Confederación Nacional Campesina “Eloy Alfaro” (Eloy Alfaro National Peasant Confederation)

Foro Urbano (Urban Forum)

Acción por la Vida (Action for Life Housing Network)

Women Sheltering Our Dreams


América España Solidaridad y Cooperación (AESCO-Ecuador)

Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes (Christian Youth Association)

Asociación Solidaridad Acción (Solidarity Action Association)

Centro de Investigaciones CIUDAD (CITY Research Center – Paso a PasoProject)


Fundación Hogar de Cristo (Fundación Hogar de Cristo)

Fundación Mariana de Jesús

Fundación Ecuatoriana del Hábitat (FUNHABIT)

Grupo Social FEPP (FEPP Social Group)

Habitat for Humanity – Ecuador

We Are Ecuador

Private institutions:

Cooperativa FOND Vida (FOND Vida Savings and Credit Cooperative)

CoopCCQ Savings and Credit Cooperative

Eco & Arquitectos (Eco Architects and Associates)

Cámara de la Construcción de Quito (Quito Chamber of Construction)

University research institutes:

Urban and Regional Planning Institute, Universidad Santiago de Guayaquil

Cooperation organisms:



Independent professionals

Some Conclusions

Through its actions, the CSV has gained considerable influence and legitimacy as a voice representing civil society. This is despite not having legal status, although individually almost all of its members are legal entities. They also lack permanent funding sources, and operate with the contributions received from members and international cooperation, through projects related to lobbying and the strengthening of actors.

Its most valuable elements are essentially summarized in the following points:

• The diversity of the actors involved which through different focuses, strategies and resources, all work towards a common goal: Building adequate responses to the housing demands of low-income groups.

• The social recognition and career path of the actors participating in the CSV.

• To be a space for dialogue with the national and local governments so that the collective interest can influence policies.

• The diversity of strategies that the CSV carries out: protests, raising awareness, elaborating proposals and intense lobbying.

• The opportunity to act in relation to particular political contexts.

• The growing geographic coverage that the CSV is pursuing and achieving and the development of actions in various cities throughout the country. The reason for and relevance of the function of this “informal” arena of political influence and the dialogue of actors that has been defined as the “social contract,” is based on:

• Social participation is the only guarantee of social sustainability for inclusive social proposals and policies.

• Social participation facilitates a process of fine-tuning policies and regulatory frameworks in order to respond to the needs of the most disadvantaged sectors as well as to their reality and changing contexts.

• Organized participation among actors strengthens interaction with the state and at the same time develops links of cooperation between different actors in society (from community and private sectors), contributing to improving the responsibility of society as a whole in the face of social problems.

• Good governance is only possible when there is opportunity for dialogue between civil society and the state, as well as within civil society. Governance is more than just private-public dialogue; it is a diverse society engaging in dialogue as a whole and building a consensus.


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